Overexpression of Bcl-2 is a potential mechanism for chemoresistance in acute leukemia and has been associated with unfavorable clinical outcome. We hypothesized that down-regulation of Bcl-2 would restore chemosensitivity in leukemic cells. To test this hypothesis, we performed a phase 1 study of G3139 (Genasense, Genta, Berkeley Heights, NJ), an 18-mer phosphorothioate Bcl-2 antisense, with fludarabine (FL), cytarabine (ARA-C), and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) (FLAG) salvage chemotherapy in patients with refractory or relapsed acute leukemia. Twenty patients with refractory or relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) were enrolled. G3139 was delivered by continuous infusion on days 1 to 10. FLAG chemotherapy was administered on days 5 to 10. Common side effects of this combination included fever, nausea, emesis, electrolyte imbalance, and fluid retention that were not dose limiting. Plasma pharmacokinetics of G3139 demonstrated steady-state concentration (Css) within 24 hours. Of the 20 patients, 9 (45%) had disease response, 6 (5 AML, 1 ALL) with complete remission (CR) and 3 (2 AML and 1 ALL) with no evidence of disease but failure to recover normal neutrophil and/or platelet counts or to remain in remission for at least 30 days (incomplete remission). Bcl-2 mRNA levels were down-regulated in 9 of the 12 (75%) evaluable patients. This study demonstrates that G3139 can be administered safely with FLAG chemotherapy and down-regulate its target, Bcl-2. The encouraging clinical and laboratory results justify the current plans for a phase 3 study in previously untreated high-risk AML (ie, age at least 60 years).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology